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Education strategies


jsolomon
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So, here's the rub. How does a hayseed like me... who grew up on Papa Sagreto's Punky Nebraska Plonk learn about wine when there aren't outlets to find out about wine here? There are a couple of stores that steer me wrong as often as right. In the libraries, there aren't things about wine, and living on a newly graduated person's budget, it's hard to justify a wine appreciation course, a wine magazine (with suspect interests), and I simply don't have the experience to really judge a wine forum.

Honestly, I take people's opinion on authority because they assert it, not for any good reason. So, how do I find out?

I always attempt to have the ratio of my intelligence to weight ratio be greater than one. But, I am from the midwest. I am sure you can now understand my life's conundrum.

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So, here's the rub.  How does a hayseed like me... who grew up on Papa Sagreto's Punky Nebraska Plonk learn about wine when there aren't outlets to find out about wine here?  There are a couple of stores that steer me wrong as often as right.  In the libraries, there aren't things about wine, and living on a newly graduated person's budget, it's hard to justify a wine appreciation course, a wine magazine (with suspect interests), and I simply don't have the experience to really judge a wine forum.

Honestly, I take people's opinion on authority because they assert it, not for any good reason.  So, how do I find out?

This is kind of off topic, but here'a a good thead on intro wine books; you can most of these for a reasonable price (used) at places like Amazon: click

Then, start tasting as budget allows.

People may have some other idea's on that thread too.

Edited by ludja (log)

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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So, here's the rub.  How does a hayseed like me... who grew up on Papa Sagreto's Punky Nebraska Plonk learn about wine when there aren't outlets to find out about wine here?  There are a couple of stores that steer me wrong as often as right.  In the libraries, there aren't things about wine, and living on a newly graduated person's budget, it's hard to justify a wine appreciation course, a wine magazine (with suspect interests), and I simply don't have the experience to really judge a wine forum.

Honestly, I take people's opinion on authority because they assert it, not for any good reason.  So, how do I find out?

Two quick answers:

1. Taste, taste, taste.Taste as many different wines (as cheaply) as you can. Host a wine tasting party where you require guests to each show up with someting, and taste away. Learn what you like and what you don't like -- and the reasons why in either case.

2. Find someone (where you live, in print, on the internet) who you think has a palate you can appreciate. By that I mean they like and dislike things similar to your tastes. Then either go along with the wines they talk or write about and/or ask them for a recommendation.

There are other ways, too. But these are budget-friendly.

We cannot employ the mind to advantage when we are filled with excessive food and drink - Cicero

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When you're helping someone learn about wines, what strategies do you propose to people? Do you advise them to keep tasting notebooks? Read magazines? Books? Use Mapquest? Wine for Dummies? Translation dictionaries and airplane tickets?

Here's the deal, I like wine. I want to learn more about wine. I have moderately well-developed tastes, especially for someone young. I have a modest wine education--enough to be able to discern a good amount of schlocky labeling to dig out a decent moderately-priced bottle reliably.

But, I'm in an intermediate stage where the serious wine news is too heady for me, and the introductory stuff isn't quite enough. Where do I go? Should I browse my local library for Wine for Dummies? Where ought I go if I'm disinterestedly interested? I.e. I don't want to feel like I'm having to get an advanced degree in oenology to increase my knowledge due to price or sheer poorly-related information amounts, but I want to know more.

I always attempt to have the ratio of my intelligence to weight ratio be greater than one. But, I am from the midwest. I am sure you can now understand my life's conundrum.

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One really easy thing to do is pick up a couple of fairly comprehensive wine books -- maybe Parker's global buying guide -- and then a more scholarly general reference book -- at one point I spent a lot of time with Hugh Johnson's Encuclopedia.

The, whenever you buya wine of reasonable quality, look it up as you drink it. Look at the maps and see where Chambertin or New South Whales is. Glean the distinguishing characteristics of the wine and the grape from the books and see if you can taste them. Read the history of the region and, if it's in there, Parker's opinion of the grower.

Or, if you're in the mood, do it backwards. Get a couple of friends and pick a grape or a region or a vineyard and, working with your local wine guy, get a couple of representative bottles and compare and contrast.

It's kind of a random approach, but it's fun and it doesn't feel like work. And the reading you do while drinking the wine -- at least early in the evening -- will stay with you.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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Buy a book, open a bottle, make some notes. Repeat regularly. I have been for about 25 years now.

Recomended reading:

Adventures on the Wine Trail by Kermit Lynch.

Michael Broadbents pocket Wine Tasting Guide.

Wine Spectator. I don't believe everything I read in this bi weekly but it's a good read.

Gambero Rosso if you dig Italian wine.

Some sort of wine atlas is a great idea, it's all about terroir.

Edited by Coop (log)

David Cooper

"I'm no friggin genius". Rob Dibble

http://www.starlinebyirion.com/

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Editing note: I moved three posts from the Sideways thread into this one. Given that the posts go in calendar order, the first three (from Sideways) are listed first before jsolomon's post that started this newer thread.

We cannot employ the mind to advantage when we are filled with excessive food and drink - Cicero

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Buy Kevin Zraly's "Complete Windows on the World Wine Course", get some friends together every 2 weeks and toss $10 in the pot and buy wines to taste, stay regional, varietal whatever. Read "Wine Spectator" and such but please don't take the ratings as "absolutes".

Take notes every time you taste seriously this is the best way to improve your palate - it's taste memory.

Find a retailer and start having frank discussions regarding wine, what you like, what you are drinking it with etc. I know Lincoln ain't San Francisco but I'm sure with a bit of leg work you can find a good retailer or two.

Go to as many tastings as you can afford - they are good value. If you pay $20 to go to a tasting and taste 20 wines that normally retail for $15 each you've added $300 worth of wine to the memory bank.

Don't read Parker until you have formed an informed opinion - this is not a slag but the man has VERY definite opinions on what makes great wine and they are often at odds with issues like acidity, terroir and food pairing so be your own man first then see what "the man" has to say.

Have fun - remember it's only a beverage.

''Wine is a beverage to enjoy with your meal, with good conversation, if it's too expensive all you talk about is the wine.'' Bill Bowers - The Captain's Tavern, Miami

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Wine books serve one very important function. They make you look scholarly while you are drinking. If you really love wine your first responsibility is to drink it. If you want to go to the next level then you need to take some notes. If you want to expand upon that buy some magazines. If you still want more. Go to a tasting, but you must be brave and make some notes. If you are feeling nervous about making notes pretend you are incontinent and make them in the washroom. If you still crave more buy The Wine Snobs Handbook. Read it and live by the rules it advocates.

David Cooper

"I'm no friggin genius". Rob Dibble

http://www.starlinebyirion.com/

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As others have said wine books are a great way to get informed.

Another great way is to work part time at your local wine shop.

Spending 8 hours looking, talkin', sellin' and depending on the manager sippin' wine is a fine way to educate oneself.

Also a great way to meet others who share your intrest in wine.

Many of the fine folks I hang and sip with now I met while working in wine retail.

Just another avenue to consider.

Cheers

slowfood/slowwine

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I think I was in your place a few years ago....young and impressionable! So i can definitely relate to wanting to get over that "hump" in the learning curve....

I did read Wine Spectator, even though it was a little esoteric. Wine & Spirits and Wine Enthusiast are a little better for something without a great depth and breadth of wine knowledge.

Several people on this thread said tasting and taking notes. Really, no better way to learn. Take notes. Yes, be a geek. Part of the wine thing is being conscious while you drink, thinking about what you are smelling, tasting, seeing, etc. You have to engage your mind. (yup, I'm a geek).

Wine Bible by Karen McNeil is good - endlessly comprehensive - don't even think you can get through it all, but it is an excellent resource, especially about regions. Not sure if this is too basic, but Great Wines Made Simple by Andrea Immer is a great book that helps you learn how to analyze wines, the characteristics of the varietals, etc.

And not sure if this is in your budget, but travel to wine regions if you can. We have a few locally here in Mass. and I have been fortunate to visit Napa and Sonoma twice. I also visited a couple in Virginia.

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A couple of other ideas to consider.

If I understand correctly, Omaha is only 1 hour away. There are several wine events there you might attend. Wine Seller weekend in March. VinNebraska in April. I get notices on wine events here in Houston through Local Wine Events.

Nebraska actually has several vineyards. Here is a link with a list.

The University of Nebraska has a viticultural program. Although focused on the technical aspects of growing grapes, I bet they have some program that might be of interest. I would expect the continuing education department at UNL to have some type of course on wine tasting.

If you really get into the wine thing, the International Sommelier Guild offers courses in Omaha.

"As far as I'm concerned, bacon comes from a magical, happy place" Frank, John Doe

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